Twin Peaks, Season 1, Episode 6, “Cooper’s Dreams”
Written by Mark Frost
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Aired May 10, 1990 on ABC
“Laura wanted to die. She told me. She said people try to be good but they’re really sick and rotten, her most of all, and every time she tried to make the world a better place, something terrible came up inside her and pulled her back down into hell. It took her deeper and deeper into the blackest nightmare. And every time it got harder to go back up to the light.” —Bobby Briggs
In the first scene of “Cooper’s Dreams,” Agent Cooper complains to Diane, via tape recorder, that the sense of peace he found in Twin Peaks has been shattered, proving one of his oldest maxims: “Once a traveler leaves his home he loses almost 100% of his ability to control his environment.” And indeed, control is something that’s slipping away from Cooper at every turn this episode. When a rowdy gang of businessmen wake him up at 4 am, it leaves him looking worn down during a key part of the investigation. His normal sense of equipoise fails him in the presence of the Log Lady, who slaps his hand for inopportune timing. And at the end of the day, he returns to his room hoping for peace, only to find Audrey Horne naked in his bed, begging him not to send her away. So often the smartest man in the room, this episode shows Cooper being pushed by circumstances, rather than the other way around.
That sense of control, the fight to keep it or the reaction when it’s taken away, is a thread that runs through the majority of “Cooper’s Dreams.” As the Laura Palmer investigation is latching on to its strongest leads yet, the lives of the residents of Twin Peaks are getting more and more complicated. So many of them want to seem like they’re in control—of their business plans, of their relationships, of their investigations—yet all of them are missing a key piece or the big picture. And these complications only make Twin Peaks more fascinating, taking the viewer’s sense of certainty away, along with the characters’.
A large part of that loss of control is due to alien presences in the town. The most vocal of those is the Icelandic contingent, the Hornes’ latest scheme to find an international investor for their Ghostwood Estates project. David Lynch and Mark Frost apparently love the idea of oversized personalities forcing their way into this sleepy community, and the Icelanders fill that role. With their loud singing waking up every guest in the hotel, their clear language barrier, and their more buxom members distracting Jerry, the sense of foreignness to this world borders on alien invasion. Even by Twin Peaks‘ standards, it’s incongruous, and made even more hilarious by its extremes.
Yet all that noise they generate is just that, noise to distract from everything else going on with the project. The reveal that Josie is colluding with Ben turns everything about the Horne/Martell/Packard conspiracy on its head, particularly given the fact that Josie’s smoking, femme fatale-style, not a hundred feet from where Ben and Catherine straddle each other on a desk. It’s a twist on the scale of Invitation To Love, but doesn’t feel like an out-of-nowhere twist, given Ben’s established lack of scruples and Josie’s newly implied criminal ties. With the clock ticking on Leo’s arson, the question of who actually stands to gain from the mill’s destruction is now more open than ever, and—on a more important character level—one wonders if Pete and Harry’s affection for Josie will turn out to be dangerous.
The other outsider in the mix is Hank Jennings, now a free man, playing the jukebox and drinking coffee in the Double R like he owns the place. His reentry to the world immediately shatters the dream Big Ed and Norma had back in the pilot to divorce their spouses and be together for real. Ed hides behind the excuse of Nadine’s instability, and Norma wearily admits they don’t control their circumstances: “We never want to hurt anyone. We never just take what we want.” There’s a genuine sense of regret in that moment, expertly carried by Everett McGill and Peggy Lipton, a sense that, for all their hopes, they knew this moment was coming and couldn’t even admit it to themselves.
Ed and Norma’s plans aren’t the only ones being laid low. Bobby and Shelly continue with their scheme to get Leo out of the way, and the success of the planted evidence has them practically swaggering with glee, play-acting threats and lying to the easily duped Andy. Yet for all their bluster, the amateur hour quality of their schemes is on full display here. Shelly can’t muster the willpower to finish off Leo and only wings him with the gun, and Bobby’s tough-guy act turns to uncontrolled sobbing under a few harsh questions from Dr. Jacoby. The latter scene is particularly strong, the direction and facial expressions of both men showing Jacoby’s skill at therapy, despite his apathy toward patients.
The surprise reveal of the scene—that Laura was the instigator of Bobby’s involvement in the drug trade—exposes yet another flaw in Twin Peaks’ golden girl. More importantly, the exposure creates the most serious implication that Laura may have been complicit in her own death, playing everyone around her in some mad attempt to control her environment. A control that, as Bobby reveals, she felt slipping away at every moment, despite how good she was at manipulating him and others to do her bidding. Even beyond the grave that control exists, as Donna and James can’t let go of her memory and vow to continue the investigation—an investigation that finally bears real fruit, as their alliance with Maddie turns up one of Dr. Jacoby’s mystery tapes.
A similar tightrope is being walked by Audrey, and Sherilyn Fenn is the episode’s clear MVP for how she’s able to slide between the extremes. She manipulates her way to the perfume counter at Horne’s Department Store masterfully, playing manager Emory Battis (Don Amendolia) and turning his memories of the little girl she was upside down. Yet one sight of Leland—his own control so frail it only takes one sudden jazz record to send him into grieving jitterbug—reduces her to tears in its unabashed sorrow. As proud as she sounds when she tells Cooper she’s 18, her youth is on full display here, taking impulsive first steps toward adulthood and unprepared for the reactions. Even her reaction to discovering her father’s affair with Catherine is a laugh more of mania than victory, a reaction to circumstances that have stopped making sense.
Funnily enough, in all of this, the most controlled person is the one who talks to a piece of timber. Coming across the Log Lady’s cabin on the search for the Renault cabin, the Twin Peaks investigative team sits down to tea and sugar cookies, all of them treating her with quiet deference. Some details of her past are disclosed—her husband died almost immediately after their wedding—and more importantly, she keeps her promise from “Traces To Nowhere” to disclose what her log saw that night and point them in the right direction. In this moment, the Log Lady appears not as the town eccentric, but a shamanistic figure, protected from the evil of the woods and cautioning Cooper away from its representatives, the fire and the owls. It’s a moment of mystery, but as pregnant with meaning as Cooper’s dream, and as Twin Peaks heads toward its season finale, any meaning is ignored at one’s own peril.
Pie crusts and coffee grounds:
- Log Lady intro: “I play my part on my stage. I tell what I can to form the perfect answer. But that answer cannot come before all are ready to hear. So I tell what I can to form the perfect answer. Sometimes my anger at the fire is evident. Sometimes it is not anger, really. It may appear as such, but could it be a clue? The fire I speak of is not a kind fire.”
- Who Killed Laura Palmer? Jacques and Leo remain the prime suspects, although the blood on Leo’s jacket not matching Laura’s could be exculpatory evidence. And while Hank has an ironclad alibi for the murder, he’s such a nasty bastard—and listening too closely to the Donna/James/Maddie scheme—it’s hard to see his hands as entirely clean. Plus, there’s the mysterious “third man” the Log Lady alludes to, one without any clear candidates.
- This Week On Invitation To Love: Montana has the upper hand, with Jared tied up tightly and Chet getting smacked around for his weaknesses. Poor Chet, as Lucy would say. One wonders whose side Emerald’s taking in the whole mess.
- Cooper’s titular dreams continue to guide the investigation without overwhelming it: the red drapes of his dream lead him to both Laura’s Flesh World ad and the Renault cabin, “there’s always music in the air” with “Into the Night” on endless repeat, and “the birds sing a pretty song” with the discovery of Waldo the mynah and the broken poker chip in the cuckoo clock.
- Lesli Linka Glatter (who has directed many, many cable dramas over the years) does excellent work in her first Twin Peaks episode, with distinctive shots such as the framing of Bobby’s therapy session, the profiles of the four investigators as they come across the cabin, and a tracking shot that follows the path of a plate of donuts at the Renault investigation, with no attention to the faces of those eating them.
- While the timing is feasible for Jerry Horne to make it from Twin Peaks to Iceland and back in the span of three days, it’s a pretty safe bet that he hasn’t slept a wink in that time.
- Norma and Shelly got their spa day! Both look particularly glamorous coming back, which only makes Hank’s reappearance all the more upsetting.
- God,the James and Donna romance is dull. As much as James’ comment about secrets underlines the rots that continue to eat away at the town, the delivery and chemistry of the two is so remarkably flat, it kills the import of the scene.
- “There’s a large group of insane men staying on my floor.”
- “I dunno. The beard sort of ruins the effect of the lingerie.”
- “Wait for the tea! The fish aren’t running.”
- “Your entire country is above the timber line?”
- “Don’t make me leave. Please.”
Next week: Cooper and Big Ed put on high roller disguises and Audrey gets tongue-tied for “Realization Time,” as our heroes cross the Canadian border for separate undercover investigations at One-Eyed Jacks.